26 February 2015

New restrictions won’t solve Lebanon’s Syria problem

Al Jazeera America

While hitchhiking last summer in Lebanon, a friend and I were offered a free ride by a Syrian taxi driver — one of hundreds of thousands of Syrians who work in the country.
After verifying that we were in no way able to procure him a visa to Europe, he began reciting the travel itinerary he would soon undertake in order to get there, where he hoped to earn money to send to his family in Syria.
The impending trip involved a trek across part of Libya and then to Italy by boat, of the variety that regularly capsizes in the Mediterranean.
As if the obstacles to his freedom of movement in the world weren’t already bad enough, they have now been rendered even more complex by new restrictions on Syrian existence in Lebanon, a country that previously maintained an open-door policy with Syria. Far from being necessary, such steps taken by Lebanon’s ruling class provide a convenient scapegoat for its inability to govern. READ MORE AT AL JAZEERA AMERICA.

25 February 2015

UMass’s preemptive strike on Iranian education

Middle East Eye

It has by now become a common occurrence - you might even say a cliché - to mistake mainstream press items for content from the satirical outlet The Onion.
Yet another contender for such confusion surfaced earlier this month in the form of headlines regarding a certain policy shift at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. Take NBC News’ version, which appeared on 18 February: “UMass Bans Iranian Nationals From Science Classes.”
The week before, New York-based political science professor and author Corey Robin broke the story of the ban, which had been announced as follows on the school’s website:
“Because we must ensure compliance with applicable laws and regulations, the University has determined that it will no longer admit Iranian national students to specific programs in the College of Engineering (i.e., Chemical Engineering, Electrical & Computer Engineering, Mechanical & Industrial Engineering) and in the College of Natural Sciences (i.e., Physics, Chemistry, Microbiology, and Polymer Science & Engineering) effective February 1, 2015.”
This would have been music to the ears of the late Italian Islamophobe Oriana Fallaci, who in the post-9/11 era lambasted American institutions of higher learning for allowing persons by the name of Mustafa and Mohamed to study chemistry and biology despite the threat of bacteriological warfare. READ MORE AT MIDDLE EAST EYE.

22 February 2015

Saving gorillas and the DRC in one fell swoop

Al Jazeera

"The best solution, effective for everyone, is to recolonise these countries."
Such is the proposal of one Julien Lechenault, an ex-field operations supervisor for the British oil and gas company SOCO International in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). The "countries" in question are former European colonial possessions in Africa, among them the DRC, which was brutally administered by Belgium until its independence in 1960.
According to Lechenault, the Africans are "not able to manage themselves" and are instead "like children".
These and other endearing comments are featured in the Oscar-nominated documentary film "Virunga", which details the plight of the eponymous Congolese park - the oldest national park in Africa, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and home to the bulk of the world's remaining mountain gorillas. READ MORE AT AL JAZEERA.

14 February 2015

In Lebanon, political murderers elude justice

Al Jazeera America

Ten years ago on Valentine’s Day, Lebanon’s multibillionaire ex–Prime Minister Rafik Hariri was killed along with 21 others when a massive explosion intercepted his motorcade as it drove along the seaside promenade in Beirut.
Soon after, a billboard appeard at a city intersection, featuring Hariri’s picture and a digital counter that tracked the number of days that had elapsed since the assassination. As only befits a dysfunctional state with relentless electricity problems, the counter eventually stopped working, and the space remained dark until its resuscitation in January 2014 with a new purpose: counting the days since the kickoff of court proceedings at the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL), the United Nations–backed entity created in The Hague to try suspects in the Hariri killing.
The creation of the court, officially launched in 2009, was preceded by a U.N. investigation set in motion by Security Council Resolution 1595. The expectation of justice for Lebanon is, however, complicated by the nature of the tribunal itself.
Political murders have long been a fixture of the Lebanese landscape, but since the 1970s, not a single one has been solved. The Hariri assassination is the only such crime to have merited a judicial spectacle of this sort. READ MORE AT AL JAZEERA AMERICA.

07 February 2015

Killing Fidel

Al Jazeera

The year 2015 has been another deadly one for Fidel Castor. In what has become an intermittent global pastime, rumours of the demise of Cuba's iconic leader - now 88 years old - began proliferating on social media and in careless news outlets in early January. Wikipedia briefly classified him as "a person who has recently died".
Part of the confusion apparently stemmed from the announcement on January 4 of the death of Fidel Castro Odinga, the son of a former Kenyan prime minister.
As usual, one of the epicentres of the rumour mill was Miami, home to a Cuban exile crowd that delights in the idea of a Castro-free world.
Long before he became the subject of what we might call Twitter assassination attempts, the Cuban comandante was, of course, on the receiving end of more hands-on efforts to dispel his earthly presence. READ MORE AT AL JAZEERA.

04 February 2015

Maid in Lebanon

Middle East Eye

In the republic of Lebanon life in general is cheap, but there are, of course, gradations of cheapness.
For politicians and other regular high-profile assassination targets, the cheapness of their lives is a reflection of the disproportionate value with which they are endowed.
For residents of South Lebanon and related areas, it has to do with their existence within Israeli crosshairs and atop unexploded Israeli ordnance.
For the fatal victims of petty disagreements, it’s often a combined result of the country’s inundation with small arms and widespread impunity on the basis of social and political connections.
And for migrant workers employed in the domestic service sector, sub-human status and the inherent lack of value attributed to their lives is, in the end, what renders them valuable.
For a minimal investment, Lebanese employers are able to extract labour from their domestic help as they might extract it from a vacuum cleaner, blender, or other household appliance. READ MORE AT MIDDLE EAST EYE.